The Oscars got it seriously wrong by snubbing All of Us Strangers. This is why

All of Us Strangers director on casting Paul Mescal and filming intimate scenes

As film fans rage about 2024 Oscars nomination “snubs”, it’s the omission of Andrew Haigh’s gay ghost story All of Us Strangers that stings for me the most.

I found watching the delicate, affecting All of Us Strangers to be a little like picking a scab. The first time I saw it, a barely concealed wound opened and bled.

Although I knew going back a second time would only keep the wound raw, I couldn’t help it. An addictive pang of something – catharsis, masochism, I’m not sure – brought me straight back. I wept both times.

Based loosely on Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel Strangers, the film follows depressed, queer, mid-40s writer Adam – played with excruciating vulnerability by Fleabag’s Andrew Scott – as he ventures back to his childhood home. His parents, played by The Crown‘s Claire Foy and Billy Elliot‘s Jamie Bell, are there to greet him – despite having died 30 years earlier in a car crash.

It opens a realm of possibility that all of us have or will imagine at one time or another: what do you wish you’d said to a loved one, now they’re no longer around to hear it?

It’s a tough year to be an Oscars contender, for sure. Online, frustrated film lovers are voicing their disappointment at a range of absences from the nominations list: both Barbie director Greta Gerwig and star Margot Robbie were left in the cold, while the heart of Past Lives, actress Greta Lee, wasn’t nominated for best actress.

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But both films scored best picture nominations. Indeed, Barbie racked up eight nods in total.

All of Us Strangers? Nothing. It’s confusing. Even Todd Haynes’ May December, snubbed in the majority of categories, managed a nod for best original screenplay.

Critics have adored All of Us Strangers, as have audiences. It’s currently sitting as one of the freshest releases of 2023 on Rotten Tomatoes with a 96 per cent approval rating, while the BAFTAs have got it down for six potential awards, including best British film.

Spend a few minutes scouring social media, and you’ll drown in the wave of outrage from those shocked it didn’t get an Oscar nomination too.

Scott is the film’s highlight. Three decades of muted grief hangs from the delivery of his every line, and his childlike longing for protection resonates as something we all feel but rarely acknowledge. A best actor nomination, though not entirely expected considering he wasn’t nominated in the same category at the BAFTAs, would have been richly deserved.

Paul Mescal (L) and Andrew Scott (R) in All of Us Strangers.
Andrew Scott (R), with Paul Mescal, wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for his performance in All of Us Strangers. (Searchlight Pictures)

And Foy should have been a no-brainer for a best supporting actress nod. Her portrayal of a fallible mother of the Thatcher generation – who at first struggles to understand her son’s sexuality – is as warm and tender as it is devastating, given the gulf that exists between their lives.

In one quietly affecting scene, she tells Adam that no matter how long he spends with their apparitions, it will never be enough, essentially capturing the film’s heart in a single line.

It also feels like a bizarre missed opportunity for the Academy to right some of Hollywood’s wrongs when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation.

There’s no doubt that the 2024 Oscars are already historic for queer actors: Colman Domingo is up for best actor, thanks to his role as a gay civil rights activist in Rustin, and Jodie Foster is nominated for her portrayal of lesbian racquetball player Bonnie Stoll in Nyad.

In Domingo’s case, it’s only the second time an out gay actor has been nominated in the category for playing a gay character (Ian McKellen was the first).

But for the Academy to be presented with an impeccable LGBTQ+ story – Adam meets a fellow gay resident, Harry (Paul Mescal), and they begin an intimate relationship – and to ignore it entirely, sits uncomfortably. Was the queer quota for the year already filled?

Paul Mescal (L) and Andrew Scott (R) make the perfect pair in All of Us Strangers.
Harry and Adam (R) have an intimate relationship in All of Us Strangers. (Searchlight Picture/Chris Harris/20th Century Studios)

Fans have a few theories as to why it may have been cast aside. It was released in the US at the very end of the year, and in a limited number of cinemas, meaning it slipped under the radar for many. As a queer love story, too, it tackles the enormity of coming out and the pain of not being able to be our authentic selves with our loved ones before it’s too late.

That might be difficult to relate to for some viewers.

There’s the simple fact that the this year’s Oscars are stacked with talent, or perhaps as one satirical film site put it, maybe the Academy simple didn’t bother to watch it. “We got the DVD and everything,” reads a made-up quote from an Academy official on Screen Idle, “but, you know, it looked all a bit British and depressing, so we didn’t get round to watching it.”

The film might not have stormed the Oscars, and it might go unnoticed by those who aren’t avid cinema lovers, but, for the queer people who watch it, it will always be special – and that is worth way more than any gold statuette.

Director and Looking creator Haigh said it best. “I’m all right with it not being some big mainstream million-dollar, billion-dollar hit, because clearly, that’s never going to happen,” he told PinkNews in an exclusive interview.

“There will still be lots and lots of people out there who won’t go and see this film because of the [LGBTQ+ content], or what they think is the content, and that’s a shame, because I feel this is a film for everybody.

“But it’s nice and amazing that it has been taken under the wing by a lot of people. I love that.”

All of Us Strangers arrives in UK cinemas on Friday (26 January).

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